In defense lies the best offence: Six tips to keep your digital world safe

Do not ‘talk’ to strangers, which means don’t click on links, open attachments sent by addresses you don’t know.


It’s a never-ending cat and mouse game. The best bet is to stay safe and stay ahead of the criminals lurking in the ever-changing cyber world to protect identity, data and other assets.

One of the most common traps laid by cybercriminals are links containing spyware or malware, which trick you into clicking them. With time, cyber attackers have refined crafting such emails or messages with malicious links embedded in them. A rule of thumb: do not ‘talk’ to strangers, which means don’t click on links or open attachments sent by people or addresses you don’t know.

 In defense lies the best offence: Six tips to keep your digital world safe

The best bet is to stay safe and stay ahead of the criminals lurking in the ever-changing cyber world to protect identity, data and other assets.

A simple but effective hack. Here are some other safeguards that you can follow:

Avoid public WiFi networks

Public or open WiFi networks are one of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to find their way into your devices. Many networks that may seem secure can be unsafe.

Hackers often deploy their free WiFi hotspots, using realistic sounding names in public spaces to lure users. Once a person connects to this network, hackers can steal data and information without much difficulty.

Avoid public WiFi networks at malls, railway stations or airports unless it is essential. Use your personal data connection to access the internet while on the move. Remember there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Steer clear of public charging ports

Public charging stations are the most crowded corners at malls, railway stations or airports. But, be careful. Charging your depleted phone or laptop batteries at these ports can infect your phone with malware.

Juice-jacking, as it is known, is used by cybercriminals to infect smartphones with malware or steal data via USB charging ports. Carry your own charger or use cables that only allow charging and not data transfer.

A secure password

It is a given but a lot of us trip on it. Passwords are the first line of defence in the digital world, be it email, social media accounts, mobile apps, internet banking or encrypted files.

Avoid using the same password for more than one service. It will save remaining digital assets even if one is compromised.

Avoid using your name, those of the family members, date of birth, numbers in sequence (123456) or your phone number as the password.

Passwords are the first line of defence in the digital world. Image credit: Wikipedia

Passwords are the first line of defence in the digital world. Image credit: Wikipedia

Attributes that can be linked directly to you are easily accessible or searchable for a hacker trying to break into your account.

Don’t be lazy, it can come back to haunt you.

A safe way to make a secure password is to keep it random — basically hard to guess. Start by including a mix of lower and upper case alphabets, special characters (&^%$#@!), numbers and mix them at random, and you are in business.

And be generous. Longer the password, stronger it will be. But do keep in mind that some services have a length limitation and also don't allow certain special characters.

Too many accounts, too many passwords? Services like password managers can come in handy here.

Two-factor authentication (2FA)

You can think of two-factor authentication(2FA) as the second line of defence. Most digital services support 2FA.

The setting is usually disabled by default and can be turned on from the security or advanced security settings across digital services. These are usually in the form of a numeric code generated at random, refreshed at a frequent interval, or one-time passwords (OTPs) sent to your email or mobile number, making them difficult to crack.

You can read more and set up 2FA for GoogleMicrosoftAmazonTwitterDropbox by visiting the links or check the settings menu of a service to see if it supports the feature.

2FA codes can be received in the form of OTPs, device notification, or be generated from a code generator like Google Authenticator (AndroidiOS), Authy, and LastPass authenticator among others.

Virtual keyboards avoid the data being entered from being captured. Image credit: Flickr/Apple

Virtual keyboards avoid the data being entered from being captured. Image credit: Flickr/Apple

Virtual keyboards

A common tactic employed by hackers and spyware is to use a keylogger to track what is typed a physical keyboard, including usernames and passwords.

A lot of online services, especially internet banking facilities, provide virtual keyboard to input user and account details, which is safer than a physical keyboard. Virtual keyboards avoid the data being entered from being captured.

If a service does not provide a virtual keyboard, try and enable it from your operating system. This feature is usually found under the ‘accessibility features’, or you can download a third-party virtual keyboard from the app store.

Use OTP logins

Several services now offer the option of login through a one-time password, which is a good safeguard, especially when using a computer or device that is not yours or in a shared space.

The OTP is sent directly to the user. Even if the public device is set-up with a keyboard logger or some such thing, cybercriminals will not be able to use the password again as it is meant for one-time use.

Also, as a matter of abundant precaution don’t store OTP message.

Be careful and keep safe.

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